With over 90% of global trade volumes being seaborne and moving through ports, Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA’s) Kana Mutombo has highlighted the growing need for improved maritime transportation infrastructure systems globally and in South Africa.
As a result of global population growth, increasing globalisation, vertical specialisation and economies of scale, the maritime industry had been identified as a “growing and promising sector”, he said.
For South Africa to improve its maritime transportation infrastructure systems, Mutombo said a new paradigm was needed that promoted economic development, while, at the same time, ensuring climatic and environmental sustainability.
However, with international trade becoming more complex as a result of interactions between people, firms and organisations, the local maritime industry would need to balance business needs for growth and “soft issues”.
Quoting Sven Klusen, from the University of Applied Sciences in Austria, Mutombo touched on emerging trends: “The idea behind offshore ports is very simple, if the ship is not able to come to the port, the port has to come to the ship”.
The TNPA believes deep offshore ports have “a better, more sustainable future” than traditional ports.
“A deep offshore port might be a plausible futurist green port development solution for TNPA,” Mutombo told delegates at the Southern African Transport Conference (SATC), adding that this would provide TNPA access to ultralarge container ships, allow for short sea domestic shipping and even reduce freight offloading times.
A “green” offshore port facility would be able to accommodate the world's largest vessels and would also act as a trans-shipment hub, and it is believed that these ports have a sustainable future, which is why a deep offshore port is considered to be a plausible development for TNPA.
TNPA is trying to encourage this mindset and introduce a new way of doing things. It believes that South Africa needs to shift from derived demand to induced demand.
Should the deep offshore port vision be realised, Mutombo said the TNPA would likely consider container operations in the existing main port system, effectively “making South Africa more competitive”.
“We believe that if we are at sea, we have a limitless area to expand,” he added, noting that the port would be less costly, environment-wise, to build, compared with traditional ports.
An offshore port system also has the potential to be powered by either wind or wave power, while unlocking multi-use space in the offshore economy and even reducing congestion of freight transportation on roads inland and within ports.
Mutombo delivered a keynote address at the SATC, in Pretoria, on behalf of TNPA acting CEO Nozipho Mdawe.